Image: A partial solar eclipse will be visible in southern South Africa, Antarctica, Tasmania, and most of New Zealand.
Starry Night Software
A partial solar eclipse will be visible in southern South Africa, Antarctica, Tasmania, and most of New Zealand.
updated 11/21/2011 2:51:37 PM ET 2011-11-21T19:51:37

This Friday (Nov. 25), a rather large partial eclipse of the sun will be on view — but only for a relatively small audience.

This will be the fourth time that a new moon will orbit between the sun and Earth to cause a solar eclipse in 2011, just one eclipse shy of the maximum for the number of solar eclipses in a given year. 

The first eclipse on Jan. 4 coincided with sunrise across Europe.

Some Alaskans and Canadians shared a view of a partially obscured sun on the afternoon of June 1. [Photos: The First Solar Eclipse of 2011]

And perhaps just a few penguins experienced a very slight eclipse a month later off Lutzlow-Holm Bay on the coast of Antarctica.

On Friday, the moon's penumbral, or outer, shadow will brush the southern belly of the Earth, initially touching down in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) a southwest of Cape Town, but only managing to encompass the southern and western portion of South Africa, completely missing Lesotho and barely grazing the border of Namibia. The sun will be seen rising with a dent in its upper right rim.

The axis of the Earth's shadow, containing the cone of darkness known as the umbra, from where we could see a total solar eclipse, misses Earth entirely, passing at its nearest, only about 0.05 of the Earth's radius, or about 210 miles (340 km) out in space.

  1. Space news from
    1. KARE
      Teen's space mission fueled by social media

      Science editor Alan Boyle's blog: "Astronaut Abby" is at the controls of a social-media machine that is launching the 15-year-old from Minnesota to Kazakhstan this month for the liftoff of the International Space Station's next crew.

    2. Buzz Aldrin's vision for journey to Mars
    3. Giant black hole may be cooking up meals
    4. Watch a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse online

So the depth of this partial eclipse is greater than the three others that preceded it. At greatest eclipse, 90.5 percent of the sun's diameter will be covered as seen from the place nearest to the shadow axis, at a point in the Bellingshausen Sea along the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Here, the sun will be seen to dip to the southern horizon at the "midnight" of its 24-hour southern late spring day, and as it slowly ascends still very low to the south-southeast horizon it turns into a delicate boat-shaped crescent in eclipse; the horizon along which the dazzling boat goes rocking is that of "The Ice" (a nickname for Antarctica, being "on the ice").

As the penumbra slides under the bottom of the Earth, the partial eclipse is visible in varying extent across the icy land continent and just as it begins to slide back out into space it (just barely) manages to pass over Tasmania as well as portions of New Zealand's South Island. In fact, the last contact of the shadow with Earth occurs just to the west of the South Island, in the Tasman Sea.

Coming attractions
If you have already obtained a calendar for 2012, be sure to put a big red circle around May 20. 

That is the date of the next solar eclipse and it promises to be a spectacular event. It will be an annular ("ring") eclipse that will be visible from parts of eight western U.S. states during the late-afternoon hours. 

For those living in parts of New Mexico and west Texas, the setting sun will be transformed into a blazing "ring of fire," in some cases lasting for more than five minutes. And across much of North America, the exception being those near and along the Atlantic Coast, the sun will appear partially eclipsed. 

Across the Pacific for parts of China and Japan, the annular eclipse will also be visible (Tokyo is directly in the eclipse track), although for Asia, being positioned to the left (west) of the International Date Line, this event will take place on the morning of May 21. 

Needless to say, in contrast to next Friday, next May's solar eclipse will have a huge viewing audience. 

Editor's note: If you snap a photo or video of the eclipse and want to share it with for a story or gallery, please email Clara Moskowitz at and Denise Chow at

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.

© 2013 All rights reserved. More from

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

loading photos...
  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments